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What the heck is IT? And do I REALLY need it?

As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard about IT, but you may not really know what it is.  Most likely, you are already doing IT without realizing that you are doing it.   You might even know that you should have more of IT, but don’t know where to get it.

What is IT you ask?  

IT is “information technology” or IT for short – except you don’t say “it” – you say “I – T.”

Yes, you will have to forgive me for the intentional play on words, but to be honest; I had to get your attention somehow!   Would you REALLY have been interested in an article titled “What is Information Technology?

For the average small business person, the term Information Technology may bring up images of something that only big companies and corporations use or need.  You know, the ones that have teams of people, or even entire departments dedicated to handling IT.  You may even think of it as something that requires specialized training and expertise.  If you are honest with yourself, you may not even really know what it means when someone says “IT,” except perhaps that it has something to do with computers.

And if all you did was go to Wikepedia, you might still be under those impressions.

Information technology (IT) is a branch of engineering dealing with the use of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data. The Information Technology Association of America has defined IT as “the study, design, development, application, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems”. The term is commonly used as a synonym for computers and computer networks, but it also encompasses other information distribution technologies such as television and telephones.

Sound’s pretty techie doesn’t it?   Did you even know there was an association just for IT? 

The truth is that there really is a much simpler explanation.  One that I think you will better relate to. Here we go…

IT deals with the ways technology can be used to enhance the way people (or businesses in this case) share and store information. 

Yup, that’s it.   Not so technical, but it’s what you need to get started.  Let’s look at an example…

It’s a pretty safe bet that if you need to get information to a client in another town, you are not using smoke signals or carrier pigeons.   Depending upon the type of information you need to exchange and the urgency of your message, you have your pick of technologies to choose from – landline, mobile phone, text, email, file sharing, voip, skype – you get the idea.

Many articles and resources that discuss Information Technology tend to break it down into categories such as hardware, peripherals, networking, data storage, software, applications, etc.   But in reality, there is a great deal of overlap and each of these rarely stands alone.

For small business owners, it is better to think in terms of some broad questions when exploring whether using technology is a fit for them.

  • How will I communicate with (get information to) my clients? My employees?
  • How will I keep track of the information that I need to run my business?
  • How will I store/present the information that I need for reports? For taxes?
  • How will I present information about my products and services to my clients?

When you break IT down by the type of INFORMATION that you are working with, you can better determine what types of technology are available to meet your needs.

  • What types of information do you deal with on a regular basis?  Here’s a few to get you started…
    • Financial information
    • Training Information
    • Product Information
    • Internal Communication
    • External Communication

Now think about what you are currently doing in each of these areas.

  • Are you handling this information in the most cost efficient and/or productive manner?
  • Is it working for you?  Could there be a better way?

Too often, we are creatures of habit.  We do what we know, what we are comfortable with.  For some it is because change is “scary,” but for many of my clients, they are too busy handling the day to day operations of their businesses to take the time necessary to learn about other options.

You may understand that technology is out there that can help to cut your expenses, increase productivity and make your life easier, but you just don’t know where to begin.

Over the course of the upcoming weeks, this series will explore ways that you can utilize technology in your business to increase your bottom line.  You will also learn some great tips on how to lower your existing IT costs.

After all, by now I am sure that you have realized that you are doing IT already.

We’re just going to help you do IT better!


If you are ready to start learning now, I recommend Business Technology Simplified.

 This comprehensive guide was co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Microsoft and is designed to help small business owners explore how technology can make their businesses more competitive and efficient.  It includes fundamentals on the importance of technology and how it can be used to achieve the goals of your business.

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About Anne Balke

Outside of my freelance work as a writer, I provide business consulting, web design and online marketing services for small businesses – from one small business owner, to another. As an entrepreneur who has been through the struggles of learning how to succeed when resources were limited, I understand what it is like to build a small business from the ground up. My formal training is in Psychology and this background gives me a unique perspective on the world of marketing and behavior. I have been a work-at-home mother since 2002 and absolutely love the freedom that being self employed provides.